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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 50)

Miscommunication, Confusion and Fear Mar White House Response to Coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group merlin_170022120_97321499-691b-4808-8a73-6c4688fe2b0d-facebookJumbo Miscommunication, Confusion and Fear Mar White House Response to Coronavirus United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Fauci, Anthony S Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Azar, Alex M II

WASHINGTON — After weeks of conflicting signals from the Trump administration about the coronavirus, the government’s top health officials decided late last month that when President Trump returned from a trip to India, they would tell him they had to be more blunt about the dangers of the outbreak.

If he approved, they would level with the public.

But Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, got a day ahead of the plan. At noon on Feb. 25, just as Mr. Trump was boarding Air Force One in New Delhi for his flight home, she told reporters on a conference call that life in the United States was about to change.

“The disruption to everyday life might be severe,” she said. Schools might have to close, conferences could be canceled, businesses might make employees work from home. She had told her own children, she said, to prepare for “significant disruption to our lives.”

The stock market plummeted, cable news blared apocalyptic headlines and by the time Mr. Trump landed at Joint Base Andrews early the next morning, his critics were accusing him of sowing confusion on an issue of life or death.

The president immediately got on the phone with Alex M. Azar II, his secretary of health and human services. That call scared people, he shouted, referring to Ms. Messonnier’s warnings. Are we at the point that we will have to start closing schools? the president added, alarmed, according to an official who heard about the call.

To health officials, the message needed to change with the outbreak. “The epicenter was shifting” as the number of cases outside China surpassed those inside, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the C.D.C. “The issue of what this might mean to us became more important.”

From the beginning, the Trump administration’s attempts to forestall an outbreak of a virus now spreading rapidly across the globe was marked by a raging internal debate about how far to go in telling Americans the truth. Even as the government’s scientists and leading health experts raised the alarm early and pushed for aggressive action, they faced resistance and doubt at the White House — especially from the president — about spooking financial markets and inciting panic.

“It’s going to all work out,” Mr. Trump said as recently as Thursday night. “Everybody has to be calm. It’s going to work out.”

Health experts say that telling people to remain calm is an effective message in an epidemic, and it is appropriate that it come from the president. Clear, honest communication is also crucial, and the United States has at times criticized China and other governments for being less than transparent.

But from Mr. Trump’s first comments on the virus in January to rambling remarks at the C.D.C. on Friday, health experts say the administration has struggled to strike an effective balance between encouraging calm, providing key information and leading an assertive response. The confused signals from the Trump administration, they say, left Americans unprepared for a public health crisis and delayed their understanding of a virus that has reached at least 28 states, infected more than 300 people and killed at least 17.

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Mr. Azar was at his home in Bethesda, Md., on Friday, Jan. 3, when Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C.’s director, called to tell him China had potentially discovered a new coronavirus. Mr. Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive who helped manage the response to earlier SARS and anthrax outbreaks, told his chief of staff to make sure that the National Security Council was aware.

This is a very big deal, Mr. Azar told him.

The Trump administration had eliminated the global health unit that had been part of the National Security Council, but within days, a team was meeting daily in the basement of the West Wing, pleading with Chinese officials to allow doctors from the C.D.C. into their country.

For weeks, the Chinese refused offers of public health cooperation. “China nice-talked it for a month,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, a top official at the Department of Homeland Security who was working on the coronavirus effort. “‘Oh, well, thank you for the offer. Blah, blah.’”

On Saturday, Jan. 18, a day after the C.D.C. dispatched 100 people to three American airports to screen travelers coming from Wuhan, China, Mr. Azar made his first call to Mr. Trump about the virus, dialing him directly at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate. The president insisted on talking about e-cigarettes first, but Mr. Azar steered him to the virus.

Four days later, during a two-day trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the president chose to focus on the positive.

“We have it under control,” he said. “It’s going to be just fine.”

On the evening of Jan. 28, a new kind of crisis broke out in the skies.

The State Department had ordered the evacuation of the American Consulate in Wuhan and a 747 was in the air. But as it headed for the United States with hundreds of passengers who possibly carried the virus, administration officials in Washington were in a frantic scramble about where it should land.

Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response, tried to secure some kind of military base in California, but was struggling to cut through Pentagon red tape. In a panic, his staff started booking hundreds of rooms at three hotels in the Los Angeles area, asking for full floors so they could separate potentially infected evacuees from other guests.

One idea was to land the plane at the Ontario airport outside Los Angeles, and officials went so far as to schedule, then cancel, a briefing for some members of the California congressional delegation. After hours of wrangling, and with the plane still in the air, Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, said the plane could land at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, which had space to house all of the passengers.

Inside the White House, a debate broke out, centered on concerns that had become ever-present since the virus first emerged: How would the government’s actions be perceived by the public? And what would the president think?

At issue was whether to impose a federal quarantine order on the evacuees to prevent them from leaving for 14 days. Such authority had not been used since a smallpox outbreak in 1969. But officials had to find some way to make sure the passengers did not leave the base until it was clear they were not infected.

Mr. Azar pushed for the order but others were wary, concerned it could cause panic. They decided to ask the passengers to voluntarily stay at the military base. One woman balked, so California officials, who use quarantine authority more often, stepped in and forced the passengers to stay.

By the end of January, the virus was veering out of control in China, the source of 23,000 visitors to the United States each day. Any one of them could be the trigger for a new and undetected American outbreak.

Over four days in the White House Situation Room, the nation’s top public health and national security officials engaged in a fierce debate over whether to take the extraordinary step of banning travel from China.

Public health officials were initially wary. Experts have long recommended against restricting travel during outbreaks, arguing that it is often ineffective and can stymie the response by limiting the movements of doctors and other health professionals trying to contain the disease. A ban would anger China, they worried, ending any hope of cooperation with American medical teams.

Officials at the National Security Council and Department of Homeland Security argued that China had already proved unwilling to cooperate. A third group inside the White House was worried that the move would incite panic and could roil the financial markets.

By Thursday, Jan. 30, the public health officials had come around. Mr. Azar, Dr. Redfield and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agreed that a ban on travel from the epidemic’s center could buy some time to put into place prevention and testing measures. “There was so much we didn’t know about this virus,” Dr. Redfield said in an interview. “We were rapidly understanding it was much more transmissible, that it had a great ability to go global.”

The debate moved that afternoon to the Oval Office, where Mr. Azar and others urged the president to approve the ban. “The situation has changed radically,” Mr. Azar told Mr. Trump.

Others in the room urged being more cautious, arguing that a ban could have unforeseen consequences. “This is unprecedented,” warned Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor. Mr. Trump was skeptical, though he would later claim that everyone around him had been against the idea. The two countries were in delicate trade negotiations. Was this the time to provoke China? he asked. And what about the consequences on the economy?

The president sided with his more aggressive aides, and announced the ban next day.

Still, Mr. Trump was publicly upbeat about the effects of the virus. At a campaign rally in New Hampshire in early February, as the World Health Organization was announcing new cases by the tens of thousands, he said of the coronavirus, “By April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

In fact, the fight against the virus was already beginning to stumble.

A system used to track travelers returning from China went offline just as state officials were told to begin monitoring them. Mr. Azar said at a congressional hearing that he needed at least 300 million respirator masks for health care workers, but the national emergency stockpile, the government’s reserve of disaster supplies, held only 12 million, and many of those had expired.

And a C.D.C. coronavirus test distributed to state labs had a flawed component that led to sometimes inconclusive results, crippling the nation’s testing capacity for weeks, despite assurances by the administration that it was quickly being resolved.

Americans stranded in Japan on a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, were finally returned home Feb. 17, but the president became enraged when he learned that 14 of the passengers had tested positive for the virus in the process of being transferred to government planes.

He later said that he was worried that bringing back people who tested positive for the virus would increase the public tally of people infected in the United States.

The month ended with a whistle-blower’s claim that workers from the Department of Health and Human Services had been sent to greet returning Americans from China at two military bases in California without the personal protective gear that is required for anyone coming into contact with potentially exposed patients. None of the workers tested positive for the virus, but the allegation shook Congress.

The president’s motorcade pulled onto the main C.D.C. campus in Atlanta just before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, passing protesters holding signs that said “Have faith in science” and “We need a vaccine against Trump.”

Ten weeks after the virus first emerged in China, the total number of confirmed cases in the world surged past 100,000 and public health experts warned darkly that the outbreak was far from over. The United States, they said, faces weeks, if not months, of uncertainty and continued disruptions in education, businesses, commerce, medicine, government and daily life.

“Time matters,” Dr. Redfield said in an interview on Friday.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence was given control of the public messaging, and although Mr. Pence has had some mixed messages of his own — he promised more tests before they were available — the White House has since displayed more discipline. Mr. Pence holds twice daily conference calls with officials from across the country, and a virus task force he leads issues daily talking points, with comment from the health professionals, to make sure the message is consistent.

But the president still has his bullhorn. During his visit to the C.D.C., Mr. Trump told reporters that he was not inclined to let 21 people who tested positive for the virus on a cruise ship off the coast of California onto American soil.

“They would like to have the people come off,” he said. “I would like to have the people stay.” The president said he would allow health experts to make the final decision, but he made clear again where he stood.

His concern? It would increase the tally for the number of people infected in the United States. “Because I like the numbers being where they are,” the president said.

Michael D. Shear and Noah Weiland reported from Washington, and Sheri Fink from New York. Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker from Seattle; Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Emma Fitzsimmons from New York; Katie Thomas from Chicago; and Emily Cochrane, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lara Jakes and Abby Goodnough from Washington.

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Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-prince1-facebookJumbo Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Suits and Litigation (Civil) Spanberger, Abigail project veritas Prince, Erik D Organized Labor O'Keefe, James E III Halderman, Robert Joel Espionage and Intelligence Services British Secret Intelligence Service Blackwater Worldwide American Federation of Teachers

WASHINGTON — Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.

Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Mr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.

Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans — and occasionally using Mr. Seddon to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques.

James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, declined to answer detailed questions about Mr. Prince, Mr. Seddon and other topics, but he called his group a “proud independent news organization” that is involved in dozens of investigations. He said that numerous sources were coming to the group “providing confidential documents, insights into internal processes and wearing hidden cameras to expose corruption and misconduct.”

“No one tells Project Veritas who or what to investigate,” he said.

A spokesman for Mr. Prince declined to comment. Emails sent to Mr. Seddon went unanswered.

Mr. Prince is under investigation by the Justice Department over whether he lied to a congressional committee examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, and for possible violations of American export laws. Last year, the House Intelligence Committee made a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Mr. Prince, saying he lied about the circumstances of his meeting with a Russian banker in the Seychelles in January 2017.

Once a small operation running on a shoestring budget, Project Veritas in recent years has had a surge in donations from both private donors and conservative foundations. According to its latest publicly available tax filing, Project Veritas received $8.6 million in contributions and grants in 2018. Mr. O’Keefe earned about $387,000.

Last year, the group received a $1 million contribution made through the law firm Alston & Bird, a financial document obtained by The New York Times showed. A spokesman for the firm said that Alston & Bird “has never contributed to Project Veritas on its own behalf, nor is it a client of ours.” The spokesman declined to say on whose behalf the contribution was made.

The financial document also listed the names of others who gave much smaller amounts to Project Veritas last year. Several of them confirmed their donations.

The group has also become intertwined with the political activities of Mr. Trump and his family. The Trump Foundation gave $20,000 to Project Veritas in 2015, the year that Mr. Trump began his bid for the presidency. The next year, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump claimed without substantiation that videos released by Mr. O’Keefe showed that Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama had paid people to incite violence at rallies for Mr. Trump.

In a book published in 2018, Mr. O’Keefe wrote that Mr. Trump years earlier had encouraged him to infiltrate Columbia University and obtain Mr. Obama’s records.

Last month, Project Veritas made public secretly recorded video of a longtime ABC News correspondent who was critical of the network’s political coverage and its emphasis on business considerations over journalism. Many conservatives have gleefully pounded on Project Veritas’s disclosures, including one particularly influential voice: Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.

The website for Mr. O’Keefe’s coming wedding listed Donald Trump Jr. as an invited guest.

Mr. Prince invited Project Veritas operatives — including Mr. O’Keefe — to his family’s Wyoming ranch for training in 2017, The Intercept reported last year. Mr. O’Keefe and others shared social media photos of taking target practice with guns at the ranch, including one post from Mr. O’Keefe saying that with the training, Project Veritas will be “the next great intelligence agency.” Mr. Prince had hired a former MI6 officer to help train the Project Veritas operatives, The Intercept wrote, but it did not identify the officer.

Mr. Seddon regularly updated Mr. O’Keefe about the operation against the Michigan teachers’ union, according to internal Project Veritas emails, where the language of the group’s leaders is marbled with spy jargon.

They used a code name — LibertyU — for their operative inside the organization, Marisa Jorge, who graduated from Liberty University in Virginia, one of the nation’s largest Christian colleges. Mr. Seddon wrote that Ms. Jorge “copied a great many documents from the file room,” and Mr. O’Keefe bragged that the group would be able to get “a ton more access agents inside the educational establishment.”

The emails refer to other operations, including weekly case updates, along with training activities that involved “operational targeting.” Project Veritas redacted specifics about those operations from the messages.

In August 2017, Ms. Jorge wrote to Mr. Seddon that she had managed to record a local union leader talking about Ms. DeVos and other topics.

“Good stuff,” Mr. Seddon wrote back. “Did you receive the spare camera yet?”

As education secretary, Ms. DeVos has been a vocal critic of teachers’ unions, saying in 2018 that they have a “stranglehold” over politicians at the federal and state levels. She and Mr. Prince grew up in Michigan, where their father made a fortune in the auto parts business.

AFT Michigan sued Project Veritas in federal court, alleging trespassing, eavesdropping and other offenses. The teachers’ union is asking for more than $3 million in damages, accusing the group of being a “vigilante organization which claims to be dedicated to exposing corruption. It is, instead, an entity dedicated to a specific political agenda.”

Project Veritas has said its activities are legal and protected by the First Amendment, and the case is scheduled to go to trial in the fall.

Other Project Veritas employees on the emails include Joe Halderman, an award-winning former television producer who in 2010 pleaded guilty to trying to extort $2 million from the comedian David Letterman. Mr. Halderman was copied on several messages providing updates about the Michigan operation, and in one message, he gave instructions to Ms. Jorge. Project Veritas tax filings list Mr. Halderman as a “project manager.”

Two other employees, Gaz Thomas and Samuel Chamberlain, were also identified in emails and appeared to play important roles in the Michigan operation. Efforts to locate Mr. Thomas were unsuccessful. A man named Samuel Chamberlain who matched the description of the one employed by Mr. O’Keefe denied he worked for Project Veritas. He did not respond to follow-up phone messages or an email.

Last year, Project Veritas submitted a proposed list of witnesses for the trial over the lawsuit. Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Thomas were on the list. Mr. Seddon was not.

Ms. Jorge, 23, did not respond to email addresses associated with her Liberty University account. In an archived version of her LinkedIn page, Ms. Jorge wrote she had a deep interest in the conservative movement and hoped one day to serve on the Supreme Court after attending law school.

In a YouTube video, Mr. O’Keefe described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and pointed to a portion of the deposition in which David Hecker, the president of AFT Michigan, said that one of the goals of the lawsuit was to “stop Project Veritas from doing the kind of work that it does.”

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement: “Let’s be clear who the wrongdoer is here: Project Veritas used a fake intern to lie her way into our Michigan office, to steal documents and to spy — and they got caught. We’re just trying to hold them accountable for this industrial espionage.”

In 2018, Ms. Jorge infiltrated the congressional campaign of Ms. Spanberger, posing as a campaign volunteer. At the time, Ms. Spanberger was running to unseat a sitting Republican congressman in a race both parties considered important for control of the House. Ms. Jorge was eventually exposed and kicked out of the campaign office.

It was unclear whether Mr. Seddon was involved in planning that operation.

Mr. Seddon was a longtime British intelligence officer who served around the world, including in Washington in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is married to an American diplomat, Alice Seddon, who is serving in the American consulate in Lagos, Nigeria.

Mr. O’Keefe and his group have taken aim at targets over the years including Planned Parenthood, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Democracy Partners, a group that consults with liberal and progressive electoral causes. In 2016, a Project Veritas operative infiltrated Democracy Partners using a fake name and fabricated résumé and made secret recordings of the staff. The year after the sting, Democracy Partners sued Project Veritas, and its lawyers have since deposed Mr. O’Keefe.

In that deposition, Mr. O’Keefe defended the group’s undercover tactics, saying they were part of a long tradition of investigative journalism going back to muckraking reporters like Upton Sinclair. “I’m not ashamed of the methods that we use or the recordings that we use,” he said.

He was asked whether he had provided any of the group’s secret recordings of Democracy Partners to the Republican National Committee or any member of the Trump family. He said that he did not think so.

In 2010, Mr. O’ Keefe and three others pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor after admitting they entered a government building in New Orleans under false pretenses as part of a sting.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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With Test Kits in Short Supply, Health Officials Sound Alarms

Westlake Legal Group 06VIRUS-TESTING1b-facebookJumbo With Test Kits in Short Supply, Health Officials Sound Alarms your-feed-healthcare Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) Redfield, Robert R Pence, Mike Medicine and Health Laboratories and Scientific Equipment Food and Drug Administration Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Azar, Alex M II

President Trump claimed again on Friday that anyone who needed a coronavirus test “gets a test.” But from Washington State to Florida to New York, doctors and patients are clamoring for tests that they say are in woefully short supply, and their frustration is mounting alongside the growing number of cases around the country.

In California, where thousands are being monitored for the virus, only 516 tests had been conducted by the state as of Thursday. Washington health officials have more cases than they can currently process. And in New York, where cases have quadrupled this week, a New York City official pleaded for more test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The slow federal action on this matter has impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic,” the official said in a letter Friday.

More than 300 cases have been confirmed, at least 17 have died, and thousands are in self-quarantine. Public health officials are warning that no one knows how deeply the virus will spread, in part because the federal government’s flawed rollout of tests three weeks ago has snowballed into an embarrassing fiasco of national proportions.

The latest two deaths were announced late Friday night in Florida, marking the first time fatal cases were not on the West Coast.

In the last week, Mr. Trump and his top officials repeatedly promised that 1 million to 1.5 million tests would be sent around the country, even though labs — government and private ones alike — have struggled to get the tests running amid a growing number of infections and rising demand for tests. Despite an order Wednesday by the C.D.C. to greatly expand criteria for who can be tested, many hospitals and state health authorities continued to limit tests to those at the highest risk for infection, adding to the confusion and frustration, especially in hot spots like California and Washington.

In California, Cindy Homen, 58, followed the advice she had heard from public health officials this week and emailed her primary care doctor about getting tested, at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., when she started to come down with coughing fits and a sore throat.

She received a reply Thursday telling her she did not need to get tested, that most people exposed to the virus recover after experiencing mild symptoms. She was advised to wash her hands and stay home. “At this point, testing is very limited,” her doctor wrote.

“This whole thing is just a big joke,” Ms. Homen said. “How do they track the coronavirus if there aren’t enough test kits and they don’t even want you to come in?”

Over the past few days, Vice President Mike Pence has been moderating expectations about how quickly the tests would be widely available. On Friday, Mr. Pence said it would be a “matter of weeks” before Americans could get easy access to a coronavirus test.

And on Thursday, he seemed to acknowledge that the administration’s estimates were high. Speaking at a 3M plant in Minnesota where another item in short supply — respirator masks — are made, he said, “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.” Mr. Pence added: “For those who we believe have been exposed, for those who are showing symptoms, we’ve been able to provide the testing.”

On Friday, Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, was prompted to speak by the president at the White House signing of the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill for the coronavirus. Mr. Azar told reporters: “I just want to make it clear that in terms of tests, we have provided all the tests to the state of Washington and the state of California that they’ve asked for. The production and shipping of tests that we’ve talked about all week is completely on schedule.”

Mr. Azar said the C.D.C. had shipped out materials capable of testing 75,000 people to state and local government labs. In addition, he said, Integrated DNA Technologies, the private contractor working with the C.D.C. to ship to the private sector and hospitals, has already distributed enough materials for 700,000 tests.

Get an informed guide to the global outbreak with our daily coronavirus newsletter.

At a short news conference during the president’s visit to the C.D.C. lab in Atlanta on Friday, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., said the agency had never denied a request by local public health officials. “All of our state labs now have the ability to test for this virus,” he said.

Mr. Trump interjected at one point, as administration officials explained the timetable for rolling out tests to the states. “Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test,” the president said. “They’re there. They have the tests and the tests are beautiful.”

But states and public health experts are warning that access is still limited and varies from state to state, hampering the ability to know how far the virus has spread or for how long it has gone undetected in some regions of the country.

“We’re going to need millions and millions and millions of tests,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a CNN town hall Thursday.

After weeks of delays by the C.D.C. because of a “manufacturing problem” in one component of its test, and the Food and Drug Administration’s refusal to lift testing restrictions for large academic centers or private companies until Feb. 29, many laboratories have begun to process tests only in the last few days. There still is no central reporting system to track the number of tests conducted or the number of patients who have been tested.

It is nearly impossible to know precisely how many people in the United States have been tested for the coronavirus. The C.D.C. reported Thursday that it had tested 1,583 patients since the beginning of the outbreak, but it is not making public how many tests are being done at state and local public health laboratories, despite publishing similar data on the seasonal flu. Many local labs are just beginning to receive long-delayed test kits and, even at full capacity, will be able to run only about 100 tests per day.

A total of 71 public laboratories in 47 states and the District of Columbia had the capacity to test for the coronavirus as of Friday afternoon, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which represents government laboratories around the country. That’s up from just eight labs able to process tests last Thursday.

“We’ve seen major progress with essentially the lights coming on across the country,” said Scott Becker, the association’s chief executive.

But the delays mean that “we’re absolutely a few weeks behind where we should be,” he said, adding, “There is no way you can sugarcoat that.”

Maine said it was still bringing its state laboratory online. Pennsylvania officials said they would have the capacity to test 150 specimens a day at the state laboratory beginning this weekend. Arkansas can process eight to 10 tests daily, and has so far tested six patients.

Large, private laboratories are also ramping up. LabCorp, a major diagnostics company, began offering a coronavirus test Thursday evening. Another firm, Quest Diagnostics, said it would launch a similar product on Monday.

“The reason that’s important, the reason that meets future demand is because the enormous capacity of these commercial laboratories and others in the country are precisely how we will make coronavirus tests available for your local doctor, available to your pharmacy and broadly available to the American public,” Mr. Pence said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing Friday.

But Wendy Bost, a Quest spokeswoman, sounded a more cautious tone. “While we believe we have capacity to accommodate initial demand, this is an evolving situation and we anticipate building additional capacity over time,” she said in a statement.

Dr. Alex Greninger, an assistant professor at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak, said the university’s lab had tested about 400 patients since it set up operations earlier this week under new federal guidelines. The lab can yield results in about eight hours and is testing patients from several hospitals around Washington State. “I’m entirely focused on testing and building out operations that can handle thousands of tests a day,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state laboratories in Washington have more cases than they can currently process.

“We have a small backlog that we hope to be through very soon,” said Danielle Koenig, a spokeswoman for that state’s health department. The agency had tested 91 patients as of Wednesday, and attributed the backlog to both a lack of staffing and physical capacity. Their facilities can currently handle 200 samples per day, with each patient requiring between one and three tests.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis cautioned that the state had not yet received enough testing kits. “I know they have tens of thousands that will eventually be en route,” he said. “We’d like to get them, obviously, as soon as possible.”

So far, the state is conducting tests at three public health labs in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.

The C.D.C.’s decision to remove most criteria for testing took some state officials and large health systems off-guard.

“Everyone under the sun who is going to develop a cough is going to want to get a test for coronavirus,” Dr. Mark Levine, the commissioner of Vermont’s health department, said on the day the changes were announced. On Friday, Vermont health officials said they had run eight tests in the state. Many states reported on Friday that they had run only a handful of tests.

In several states, health officials have been sending out guidance to physicians encouraging them to first test for other likely causes, such as the flu, before sending samples to state laboratories.

“We realize people are scared — we recognize that,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist in Oregon, but he added that it was important to prioritize people at the highest risk.

Mr. Becker, of the public health lab association, said he worried that mixed messages from the Trump administration could create demand for testing that “has the potential to overwhelm the public health system, and the country.”

In Colorado, Scott Bookman, the incident commander overseeing the coronavirus for the state’s health department, warned: “We don’t have unlimited supply going forward, so we want to be careful with that.”

Mr. Bookman said Colorado had tested samples from 100 patients, and its lab could test samples for 160 patients per day, if needed. State health officials announced Colorado’s first two infections on Thursday, with additional cases on Friday.

Utah, where one patient has been treated for coronavirus, can test about 30 people daily. That’s enough to keep up with current demand but there are potential bottlenecks: Parts of the test are conducted manually, and supplies that come from outside vendors may become scarce.

“We’re not turning away tests, but our capacity right now is limited by the fact that we have a human being extracting the DNA,” said Jenny Johnson, a Utah spokeswoman.

Doctors and lab officials alike say that the lack of clear communication from the government was hampering rather than helping their efforts.

Dr. John Strayer, an emergency doctor at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash., where some of the patients infected with the virus had been admitted, said the loosened criteria have “added to my work.”

He said he now has to triage patients based on whether they were sick enough to need a test urgently. Most people are sent back home and told to quarantine until they get better.

Dr. Strayer said the new policy had certainly created “lots of very angry patients.”

Kate Mannle, 37, of Seattle spent a week trying to get tested. Ms. Mannle returned Saturday from an overseas trip that included a layover in South Korea, which is experiencing an outbreak of the new virus. On Sunday, she developed a fever and a cough, but was told by her doctor and hospitals that she was not sick enough to get tested.

Ms. Mannle, the director of training programs for a conservation nonprofit, quarantined herself inside her one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, where she spent the week sleeping, doing a little yoga and trying to recover from her 101-degree fever and respiratory infection. She plans to stay inside until 24 to 48 hours after her cough goes away. She suspects she did indeed contract the virus, but she will probably never know for sure.

“They’ve put up so many barriers,” she said. “I’m tired of it and I’m ready to move on.” She added: “But what about the next one? What if this had been Ebola?”

Reporting was contributed by Jack Healy, Patricia Mazzei, Knvul Sheikh, Sheila Kaplan, Farah Stockman, Reed Abelson, Denise Grady and Timothy Williams.

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Trump Names Mark Meadows Chief of Staff, Ousting Mick Mulvaney

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-mulvany-sub-2-facebookJumbo-v2 Trump Names Mark Meadows Chief of Staff, Ousting Mick Mulvaney United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Mulvaney, Mick Meadows, Mark R (1959- ) Appointments and Executive Changes

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump on Friday pushed out Mick Mulvaney, his acting White House chief of staff, and replaced him with Representative Mark Meadows, a stalwart conservative ally, shaking up his team in the middle of one of the biggest crises of his presidency.

Mr. Trump announced the change on Twitter after arriving in Florida for a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate, choosing to make one of the most significant switches he can make in his White House on a Friday night when most of the country had tuned out news for the weekend. As a consolation prize, the president named Mr. Mulvaney a special envoy for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Trump’s decision to push out Mr. Mulvaney came as the president confronted a coronavirus outbreak that has unsettled much of the country, threatened the economy and posed a new challenge to his re-election campaign. But the decision was seen as a long-delayed move cleaning up in the aftermath of the Senate impeachment trial as he shuffles his inner circle for the eight-month sprint to Election Day.

Mr. Trump called Mr. Meadows on Thursday to offer him the job, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Mr. Mulvaney, who took an annual trip to Nevada this week, learned of the decision on Friday, another person familiar with the events said. Mr. Mulvaney did not travel with Mr. Trump to Florida; instead, he sent his top deputy, Emma Doyle.

The replacement was widely seen in the West Wing as a chance for the president to reinvigorate his staff, over which Mr. Mulvaney was seen as losing control. In Mr. Meadows, Mr. Trump will have an ally whom he has treated as a confidant and a bellwether of congressional conservatives for much of his term.

Mr. Meadows takes over as Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, returns on Monday in a new role working for Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Mr. Meadows, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has been one of the president’s most vocal supporters, fiercely advocating his agenda on Capitol Hill and serving as one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent defenders during the House impeachment inquiry and Senate trial.

First elected in 2012, Mr. Meadows announced in December that he did not plan to seek re-election, hinting at the time that he might work for Mr. Trump in some capacity. “My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning,” he said.

But both he and the president have been coy, refusing to say whether Mr. Meadows might join the re-election campaign in a senior position or take a top job at the White House. In response to speculation that he might become chief of staff, Mr. Meadows repeatedly demurred.

For months, Mr. Meadows — who served on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which led many of the investigations into Mr. Trump’s administration — was a ubiquitous face on television arguing forcefully that the president had done nothing wrong. Those appearances helped cement his relationship with Mr. Trump.

The president soured on Mr. Mulvaney long ago but was warned by advisers not to get rid of him until after his trial in the Senate, which ended with his acquittal on Feb. 6. Throughout the impeachment battle, Mr. Mulvaney was at near-open war with the White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone, who at one point was seen as a potential successor as chief of staff.

Mr. Mulvaney was a central player in Mr. Trump’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats. At one point, Mr. Mulvaney publicly contradicted the president’s version of events. Yet he followed Mr. Trump’s orders to defy a House subpoena to testify and was never called by the Senate.

Mr. Mulvaney, 52, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, was the third person to run Mr. Trump’s White House in three years and served in that role for more than 14 months in an “acting” capacity without ever formally being given the title. No president has had four chiefs of staff in such a short amount of time, underscoring the record turnover that has marked Mr. Trump’s West Wing since he took office.

In testimony to House investigators, current and former administration officials placed Mr. Mulvaney at the heart of the events that led to the impeachment inquiry that threatened Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. Mulvaney carried out Mr. Trump’s order to suspend the aid to Ukraine in July without explanation even though it had been approved by Congress, an action later declared illegal by the Government Accountability Office.

At the news briefing in October, Mr. Mulvaney undercut the president’s denial that he had imposed a quid pro quo on the assistance to benefit his own political fortunes. Mr. Mulvaney told reporters that the White House withheld aid to Ukraine in part to force Kyiv to commit to investigating a widely debunked theory that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of the Democrats, a story that American intelligence agencies have called Russian disinformation.

“Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the D.N.C. server?” Mr. Mulvaney asked, referring to a Democratic National Committee computer server that was supposedly hidden in Ukraine. “Absolutely. No question about that.” He added, “That’s why we held up the money.”

Later that afternoon, Mr. Mulvaney issued a written statement trying to take it back. “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he wrote.

The conflicting statements bolstered Democratic critics, who accused Mr. Trump of abusing his office, and dismayed the president’s Republican defenders, who were relying on his assurances that the aid suspension was not tied to his demands that Ukraine investigate Democrats. House managers prosecuting Mr. Trump in the Senate played Mr. Mulvaney’s comments from the briefing repeatedly as part of their case.

Fiona Hill, a former White House aide, told House investigators last fall that Mr. Mulvaney had been involved in arranging a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that was tied to whether he would conduct the investigations sought by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. She testified that Mr. Mulvaney was working with Gordon D. Sondland, who was then the ambassador to the European Union.

John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, was alarmed at the machinations and ordered Ms. Hill to report the matter to a White House lawyer. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton told her to tell the lawyer.

Mr. Trump never invested in Mr. Mulvaney enough to take away the “acting” in front of his title, even though Mr. Mulvaney actually served in the corner office more than twice as long as Reince Priebus, the president’s first chief of staff. Mr. Mulvaney brushed off the snub by telling people that everyone in Mr. Trump’s White House was effectively in the job on an acting basis, but the seeming lack of faith or respect invariably made it harder for him to impose authority.

Unlike his predecessor, John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general who left in late 2018, Mr. Mulvaney made a point of not trying to control the famously mercurial president and instead let Mr. Trump be Mr. Trump. Mr. Kelly said in October, as the House was pursuing its impeachment inquiry, that he had previously warned the president that such an approach would get him in trouble.

“I said, whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” Mr. Kelly said at a political summit hosted by The Washington Examiner in Sea Island, Ga. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”

Like others who later came to serve Mr. Trump, Mr. Mulvaney viewed the presidential candidate critically during the 2016 campaign, calling him “a terrible human being,” only to toss aside his reservations after the election. A leader in the House of the conservative Tea Party movement, Mr. Mulvaney was initially tapped to direct the Office of Management and Budget for Mr. Trump.

In that role, he helped enact $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, the president’s signature legislative victory, and rolled back environmental and other regulations. But he was frustrated in his attempts to pare back spending and wound up presiding over a period of rocketing budget deficits that are projected to top $1 trillion a year for the next decade.

During his time as acting chief of staff, the economy remained strong and by the end of his tenure, Mr. Trump’s approval rating had risen to 49 percent in Gallup’s poll, the highest of his presidency.

He recently told an audience in Britain that he regularly conflicted with the president over various decisions but made a point of keeping that private. “I disagree with the president every single day,” he said. “You just don’t hear about it — that’s not my job.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Michael D. Shear from Washington.

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Trump Signs Coronavirus Emergency Spending Bill but Cancels Visit to C.D.C.

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-trump-sub-facebookJumbo Trump Signs Coronavirus Emergency Spending Bill but Cancels Visit to C.D.C. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Mar-a-Lago (Palm Beach, Fla) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to confront the coronavirus outbreak on Friday morning but at the last minute scrapped plans to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, forgoing a chance to tour the nerve center of the government’s response to the health crisis.

As late as nearly 9 p.m. on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence publicly indicated that the trip was still on, telling reporters traveling with him to Washington State that the president would formally approve the spending measure while at the centers. “President Trump is expected to sign the legislation tomorrow as he visits the C.D.C. in Atlanta,” Mr. Pence said.

By 11:30 p.m., when the White House issued the president’s public schedule, however, the visit was no longer on the calendar. The White House gave conflicting explanations on Friday morning. A White House official initially said the president canceled the visit because he did not want to interfere with the work at the centers as its staff scrambled to get a grip on the virus. But then Mr. Trump told reporters it was called off because of a suspected case of coronavirus at the C.D.C. itself.

As he signed the spending bill at the White House, Mr. Trump said the report of an infection at C.D.C. turned out to be negative. “So I may be going,” he told reporters. “We’re going to see if they can turn it around.”

Mr. Trump will still fly to Nashville on Friday to visit the site of a deadly tornado and then from there will head to Florida where he will headline campaign fund-raising events and spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

The C.D.C. is at the epicenter of an extraordinary crisis as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 100,000 and has sparked enough fear that investors are dumping stocks, businesses and nonprofit organizations are canceling conventions, travelers are scotching spring break vacations and schools are suspending study abroad programs.

As of Thursday evening, at least 226 people with the illness from the virus, Covid-19, have been treated in the United States and 14 have died, all but one in the Seattle area. The first cases near Washington were reported in a Maryland suburb.

The C.D.C. response has generated concern and criticism among many health experts, who have complained that the agency was slow to respond to the spread of the infection and imposed overly restrictive guidelines early on about who could be tested.

Even now, testing remains a major challenge. While Mr. Pence had said earlier in the week that “any American could be tested,” he acknowledged on Thursday that “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”

Mr. Pence said that the C.D.C.’s test supplier will distribute kits across the country “in just a matter of a few days” that will enable 1.2 million Americans to be tested and that by the end of next week an additional 4 million tests will be available. “But it’s still just a beginning,” he said. “As our nation continues to hear of new cases every day, we want to make sure that testing is available broadly.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday morning blamed China for not being more forthcoming early on about the outbreak there.

“The information that we got at the front end of this thing wasn’t perfect and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve,” he said on CNBC. “That’s not the way infectious disease doctors tell me it should work. It’s not the way America works with transparency and openness and the sharing of the information that needs to take place.”

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In Rarity, a Top Coronavirus Official Is an Obama Appointee Working for Trump

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-birx-facebookJumbo In Rarity, a Top Coronavirus Official Is an Obama Appointee Working for Trump United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Birx, Deborah L Appointments and Executive Changes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

WASHINGTON — In the spring of 1983, even before the virus that causes AIDS had a name, a young Army doctor named Deborah L. Birx suffered excessive bleeding while giving birth. Moments before she passed out from pain, she screamed an order at her husband: “Do not let them give me blood!”

She may have saved her own life. The blood she would have received was later discovered to be contaminated with H.I.V.

“That was Debbie’s first brush with AIDS, and it literally changed her,” John Kerry, then the secretary of state, said in 2014, after President Barack Obama put Dr. Birx in charge of addressing the global AIDS epidemic. “It made her think hard not just about the perils of this new disease, but about her responsibility to fight it.”

Now, after researching H.I.V. and devising public health strategies to combat it for more than three decades, Dr. Birx has a new virus to fight. As President Trump’s newly named White House coronavirus response coordinator, she has the difficult task of tracking and orchestrating the government’s effort to contain the outbreak, while projecting a calm, authoritative presence to counter the mixed messages from Mr. Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing the government’s response, introduced her as “my right arm.”

Public health experts say her task is immense.

“There are lots of things that can go wrong here,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, who worked with Dr. Birx when he ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and she oversaw the C.D.C.’s division of global AIDS. “It’s possible that we’ll look back in six months and say, ‘It’s not so bad, we overreacted.’ We just don’t know. But we wouldn’t want to look back in six months and say we underreacted.”

Unlike Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, another member of the coronavirus task force and the oft-quoted director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Birx — who carried the rank of ambassador at the State Department — is stepping gingerly into the public eye. She has taken pains not to contradict the president, praising the White House for its “energy and efficiency.”

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That kind of political savvy helps explain why Dr. Birx is one of only a handful of Obama political appointees who is still working for the Trump administration. (Another is Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.)

“Thank God she’s in charge,” said Katy Talento, a former health policy adviser to Mr. Trump.

Dr. Birx faces multiple challenges, Dr. Frieden said. She must quickly gather information about the virus and how it is spreading to adjust the government’s response. She must ensure that decisions are “based on science rather than on political considerations,” he said. And she must “engage globally,” he said, “so we can tamp down the size of the pandemic in other countries.”

She has deep relationships with health officials around the world, Dr. Frieden said, but she is less familiar with the public health system in this country.

Tough and disciplined — she walks several miles to work each day to “clear her head,” one associate said — Dr. Birx is most often described as “data driven.” She is running what amounts to a coronavirus war room from the vice president’s office, meeting with government and public health officials and pharmaceutical industry executives to shore up beleaguered local health departments, scale up the production of coronavirus test kits and encourage research into antiviral medicines and vaccines.

“I think this administration is realizing that her credibility and the years of sweat equity and trust she has built up working with people on both sides of the aisle is arguably her best asset,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.

For the past six years at the State Department, Dr. Birx has, among her responsibilities, overseen the Presidents’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, created in 2003 by President George W. Bush when antiretroviral drugs saving lives in developed countries were not available in other nations.

In its first decade, the initiative focused on “priority countries,” offering broad public health programs to slow the spread of H.I.V., said Paul Zeitz, who worked for Dr. Birx for three years.

Dr. Birx, he said, concluded that it would be more effective to concentrate specifically on H.I.V. prevention and the treatment of infected people in areas where the epidemic was disseminating swiftly. She made difficult decisions to take money from “low transmission zones” and beef up spending in areas where the disease was spreading rapidly, using statistics as a guide.

“I saw her be very tough with country teams,” Dr. Zeitz said. “She wanted the facts about exactly what was happening with their epidemic, and if people did not have data in a way that it could be used, where it could be disaggregated by gender, by geography — and then she got all the way down to statistics for each medical clinic — they would have to go back to the drawing board.”

Dr. Birx also created a program known as DREAMS, a public-private partnership to reduce rates of H.I.V. among adolescent girls and young women. That demographic accounts for 74 percent of new H.I.V. infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is most prevalent.

She was particularly outraged at the high rates of infections resulting from sexual assault, which was rarely reported, Ms. Talento said. She started working with churches to encourage young women to speak up.

“She was jumping around, waving her arms, ‘Listen, young women are suffering scandalously high rates of sexual assault,’” Ms. Talento said. “She would brainstorm and kick things around: What if we started ranking countries on how well they prosecute this, and tie the money to those rankings?”

Dr. Birx, a colonel in the Army, began her career in the early 1980s as an immunologist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She spent part of her training as a fellow in Dr. Fauci’s lab, and “was a star then,” he recently told reporters, adding, “and what has happened over the years, she’s become a superstar.”

With the military committed to reducing the spread of H.I.V. in its own ranks, Dr. Birx was on the cutting edge of research. Shepherd Smith, an evangelical Christian leader and a founder of Children’s AIDS Fund International, said Dr. Birx and her colleagues at the Defense Department sometimes spotted epidemiological trends even before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“She had an early view of the epidemic that a lot of people in the AIDS issue didn’t have,” he said. “Between 1985 and 1988, the number of H.I.V.-positive African-American women in the military was greater than white men, so there were indicators where this epidemic was going.”

In 2005, Dr. Birx moved to the C.D.C., where she remained until Mr. Obama appointed her to the State Department. Eric Goosby, Dr. Birx’s predecessor at the State Department, said she was somewhat reluctant to leave her diplomatic post. The two spoke before she accepted Mr. Pence’s offer.

”The responsibility she carried involves hundreds of thousands of lives,” he said, adding that for Dr. Birx, it was a question of whether to “move away from something where you know you are dropping suffering and dropping death, to work on something that has the potential to be devastating but isn’t there yet.”

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Judge Calls Barr’s Handling of Mueller Report ‘Distorted’ and ‘Misleading’

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-mueller-facebookJumbo Judge Calls Barr’s Handling of Mueller Report ‘Distorted’ and ‘Misleading’ Walton, Reggie B United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Mueller, Robert S III Justice Department Freedom of Information Act Electronic Privacy Information Center BuzzFeed Inc Barr, William P Attorneys General

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr’s handling of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, saying that Mr. Barr put forward a “distorted” and “misleading” account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic.

Mr. Barr could not be trusted, Judge Reggie B. Walton said, citing “inconsistencies” between the attorney general’s statements about the report when it was secret and its actual contents that turned out to be more damaging to President Trump. Mr. Barr’s “lack of candor” called into question his “credibility and, in turn, the department’s” assurances to the court, Judge Walton said.

The judge ordered the Justice Department to privately show him the portions of the report that were censored in the publicly released version so he could independently verify the justifications for those redactions. The ruling came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a full-text version of the report.

The differences between the report and Mr. Barr’s description of it “cause the court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller report to the contrary,” wrote Judge Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Barr’s public rollout of the Mueller report has been widely criticized. Still, it was striking to see a Republican-appointed federal judge scathingly dissect Mr. Barr’s conduct in a formal judicial ruling and declare that the sitting attorney general had so deceived the American people that he could not trust assertions made by a Justice Department under Mr. Barr’s control.

A department spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The lawsuit centers on Freedom of Information requests by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and by Jason Leopold, a BuzzFeed News reporter.

Judge Walton’s decision focuses on the period last spring between the delivery of the Mueller report to the attorney general, his publicly issued summary of it two days later that drew widespread condemnation and the release of the report itself a month later that revealed several discrepancies between the documents.

Among those Judge Walton cited: Mr. Barr’s obfuscation about the scope of the links that investigators found between the Trump campaign and Russia, and how the report documented numerous episodes that appear to meet the criteria for obstruction of justice, echoing the complaints of many critics of Mr. Barr’s summary of the report.

The attorney general issued an initial four-page letter in March 2019 — two days after receiving the 381-page Mueller report — that purported to summarize its principal conclusions. But within days, Mr. Mueller sent letters to Mr. Barr protesting that he had distorted its findings and asking him to swiftly release the report’s own summaries. Instead, Mr. Barr made the report public only weeks later, after a fuller review to black out sensitive material.

Among the issues Judge Walton flagged: Mr. Barr declared that the special counsel had not found that the Trump campaign had conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and left it at that.

But while Mr. Mueller did conclude that he found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with the Russians, Mr. Barr omitted that the special counsel had identified multiple contacts between Trump campaign officials and people with ties to the Russian government and that the campaign expected to benefit from Moscow’s interference.

Judge Walton also wrote that the special counsel “only concluded” that the investigation did not establish that the contacts rose to “coordination” because Mr. Mueller interpreted that term narrowly, requiring, in the report’s words, agreement that is “more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.”

In addition, Mr. Barr told the public in March that Mr. Mueller had made no decision about whether the president obstructed justice, then pronounced Mr. Trump cleared of those suspicions.

But Mr. Barr “failed to disclose to the American public,” Judge Walton wrote, that Mr. Mueller had explained that it would be inappropriate to make a judgment while the president was still in office about whether he committed obstruction crimes. The report also said that if the evidence had cleared Mr. Trump, Mr. Mueller would have said so, but he was unable to exonerate him.

“The speed by which Attorney General Barr released to the public the summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s principal conclusions, coupled with the fact that Attorney General Barr failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings set forth in the Mueller report, causes the court to question whether Attorney General Barr’s intent was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller report — a narrative that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller report,” Judge Walton wrote.

The judge also blasted similar “inconsistencies” in public comments made by Mr. Barr hours before he released the redacted version of the report in April.

Because of that pattern, Judge Walton wrote, he could not look away from the fact that the portions of the Mueller report that the Justice Department was withholding in the Freedom of Information Act case mirrored the deletions made under Mr. Barr’s guidance in the version of the report released in April.

That echoing, he wrote, causes “the court to question whether the redactions are self-serving and were made to support, or at the very least to not undermine, Attorney General Barr’s public statements and whether the department engaged in post-hoc rationalization to justify Attorney General Barr’s positions.”

Appointed to the Federal District Court bench in Washington in 2001, Judge Walton has presided over a variety of high-profile cases, including the perjury trial of the former baseball pitcher Roger Clemens and the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., the onetime chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of lying in connection with the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. operative. Mr. Trump pardoned Mr. Libby in 2018.

A former prosecutor who handled drug and street crime cases, Judge Walton is known for handing down tough sentences and for being careful and methodical. He also once broke up a street brawl near the courthouse.

The Mueller ruling was not the first time that Judge Walton had criticized the actions of the Barr Justice Department. Last month, he unsealed the transcript of a September closed-door meeting with prosecutors about whether and when the department was going to charge Andrew G. McCabe, the former acting F.B.I. director whom Mr. Trump has vilified for his role in the Russia case, in connection with a leak investigation.

Noting in that September hearing that prosecutors had said to him weeks earlier that a decision about charging Mr. McCabe could come “literally within days,” Judge Walton chastised them for stringing along Mr. McCabe and noted the president’s comments about Mr. McCabe with disapproval, saying they created the appearance of a “banana republic.”

“I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted,” the judge said, adding that even if Mr. Trump’s moves were “not influencing the ultimate decision, I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue, inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.”

Nevertheless, the Justice Department continued to keep Mr. McCabe hanging for another five months, announcing only last month that he would not be charged. Hours later, Judge Walton unsealed the transcript of the closed September hearing, which was part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

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Facebook Removes Misleading Trump Census Ads

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WASHINGTON — Facebook said on Thursday that it had removed misleading ads run by President Trump’s re-election campaign about the 2020 census, in a stand against disinformation ahead of the decennial population count that begins next week.

Earlier this week, Trump Make America Great Again, a joint fund-raising arm of Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee, started running ads on the social media site that Facebook said could have caused confusion about the timing of the census.

“President Trump needs you to take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today. We need to hear from you before the most important election in American history,” the ad said. The campaign asked followers to “respond NOW” to help our campaign messaging strategy, with an appeal to text “TRUMP to 8022.”

The Census Bureau will not begin to survey the public for its population survey until next week. The ad linked the census to the Trump campaign, a misrepresentation of the official government survey, said civil rights groups.

Facebook said the message violated its policy against interference in the census, an important survey and population count used to draw electoral maps. Facebook bars the misrepresentation of dates, locations, times and methods for census participation.

“There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. census and this is an example of those being enforced,” Facebook said in a statement.

President Trump’s re-election campaign declined to comment about the ads.

Civil rights groups, which have been warning Facebook about the possibility of disinformation around the census, alerted Facebook to the misleading ads. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, said she communicated over email on Thursday morning with Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

Ms. Gupta has warned that the social network could be a target for misinformation on census information, a concern among civil rights leaders, who fear a miscount of the population could affect districting for voters and lead to voter suppression.

“While we’re gratified that Facebook shut down Trump’s attempt to sow confusion about how and when to participate in the 2020 census, it’s disturbing that the ads weren’t immediately removed,” Ms. Gupta said in a statement. “We will continue to hold Facebook accountable to enforce it. Nothing should distract from making sure everyone gets counted.”

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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Trump’s Economic Cheerleading Is Suddenly Tested

WASHINGTON — One of President Trump’s greatest strengths in his presidential campaign is his economic salesmanship: He has convinced a devoted share of Americans that his leadership has made the U.S. economy bulletproof and that markets would crash if he were defeated in November.

The president’s ability to set the economic narrative is buoyed by an 11-year economic expansion, with rising wages and unemployment at a 50-year low. That strength presents a challenge for the Democrats hoping to unseat him in November — even though Mr. Trump’s cheerleading is often overstated and parts of the economy are slowing, including manufacturing.

That helps explain why Mr. Trump has played down economic damage from the coronavirus and dismissed the stock market plunge: They threaten to undermine the most effective story he tells about his presidency.

“The country is in great shape, the market is in great shape,” Mr. Trump told reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, as stocks tumbled after the Federal Reserve’s rate cut. The S&P 500 ended the day down about 2.8 percent.

Mr. Trump has blamed any growth hiccups on external events, like the Democrats running for president, troubles at the aerospace giant Boeing and the Federal Reserve. He has praised consumers and the economy’s strength, even as forecasters warn that the virus could dampen growth at least temporarily this year.

On Monday, Mr. Trump suggested on Twitter that House Democrats pass a one-year cut in payroll taxes, a form of fiscal stimulus often aimed at boosting consumer spending at times of economic weakness. Yet the president did not concede any economic trouble.

“This is an incredible time for our nation,” he wrote on Twitter. “Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, confidence is surging.”

That kind of rhetoric has served Mr. Trump well during his first three years in office, helping him win credit — at least among supporters — for what remains a strong economy. But experts warn that it has also helped widen a partisan divide on the economy, which may make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to reassure the public in the event of a crisis, like the spread of coronavirus.

“The aura of the office, where people might have deferred to the message about the state of the economy, I think today that’s gone,” said Shanto Iyengar, a political scientist at Stanford University. “It’s gone because of the hyper-partisanship.”

Americans who tune into Mr. Trump’s messages are far more likely to echo his language on the economy and are more optimistic about it, according to a new nationwide poll conducted last month for The New York Times by the online research firm SurveyMonkey.

Respondents were asked to choose from a list of terms that could describe the state of the economy. Those who said they regularly watched or followed news coverage of Mr. Trump’s speeches were about twice as likely to describe the economy as “booming” or the “best economy ever,” and they were far more likely to express confidence in the economy and give Mr. Trump credit for its condition.

The split persisted among Democrats, independents and even among Republicans. More than eight in 10 Republican voters who regularly follow Mr. Trump’s speeches say Mr. Trump deserves “a lot” of credit for the economy. Only about one in three Republicans who do not regularly follow the speeches said the same.

Will Hicks, a 32-year-old survey respondent in the oil field town of Roosevelt, Utah, said Mr. Trump’s election provided an immediate jolt to people in his area. He credits Mr. Trump and his boosterism for much of that, even though he said the president’s claims were often overstated.

“His viewpoint is all positive, that we’re going to get greater, we’re going to improve our economy,” Mr. Hicks said. “I think that push forward, even though it might be a little bit of an exaggeration, has helped the economy.”

Some economists agree. Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale, has described Mr. Trump’s cheerleading as the driving force behind the continuation of the now-record economic expansion over the last three years.

In a presentation earlier this year — in which he compared Mr. Trump’s economic messaging to the spread of a pandemic virus — Mr. Shiller reported than 62 percent of newspaper articles that mentioned a “strong economy” from 2017 to 2019 also mentioned Mr. Trump. That’s more than twice the rate of association that President Bill Clinton enjoyed during a stronger economy in the late 1990s.

Mr. Trump “is our first motivational-speaker president,” Mr. Shiller said.

Mr. Trump made grand economic promises a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign, and he reveled in the stock-market surge that followed his victory. Even before he took office, consumer and small-business confidence levels soared, driven largely by Mr. Trump’s Republican supporters. Both measures have remained elevated throughout his term, with sentiment among Republican consumers hitting a record high in February in a long-running survey from the University of Michigan.

But on several measures, the economy has fallen short of the president’s promises. It grew 2.3 percent last year, well below the forecasts of Mr. Trump’s economic team, as the president’s trade war chilled business investment. Economic growth in the first three years of President Barack Obama’s second term was nearly identical to that of Mr. Trump’s first three years. Median wage growth is no higher today than it was in October 2016, and it remains well below the levels of the late 1990s.

Small business owners’ expectations for capital investment now are essentially unchanged from before the 2016 election. Among consumers, the postelection rise in confidence has failed to translate into a sustained improvement in spending, shattering a longstanding relationship. After Mr. Trump’s election, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, “a gap opened up between the spending and confidence numbers, and that gap has persisted.”

Feeling Good, But Not Acting Like It

President Trump’s election led to a surge in consumer confidence, at least among Republicans. But that hasn’t translated into stronger spending.

Westlake Legal Group 0303-biz-web-TRUMP-NARRATIVE-Artboard_2 Trump’s Economic Cheerleading Is Suddenly Tested Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Labor and Jobs Consumer Behavior

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

CONSUMER SPENDING

University of Michigan

Index of Consumer Sentiment

Year-over-year percentage change in

inflation-adjusted consumer spending

NOV. ’16

NOV. ’16

Trump elected

Trump elected

12-MONTH ROLLING AVERAGE

12-MONTH ROLLING AVERAGE

Westlake Legal Group 0303-biz-web-TRUMP-NARRATIVE-Artboard_3 Trump’s Economic Cheerleading Is Suddenly Tested Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Labor and Jobs Consumer Behavior

Consumer confidence

Consumer spending

University of Michigan

Index of Consumer

Sentiment

Year-over-year percentage

change in inflation-adjusted

consumer spending

NOV. ’16

NOV. ’16

Trump elected

Trump elected

12-month rolling avg.

12-month rolling avg.

Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis (consumer spending); University of Michigan (consumer confidence).

By The New York Times

The confidence gap is driven entirely by asymmetric partisanship, powered by a surge in Republican sentiment. When Mr. Obama was in office, surveys consistently showed that Democrats felt better about the economy than Republicans. When Mr. Trump was elected, the pattern reversed almost overnight, though the surge in Republican optimism was larger than the drop-off among Democrats.

Masha Krupenkin, a Boston College political scientist, said Republicans show bigger swings in economic confidence, and exhibit a similar pattern in surveys that ask about trust in government, depending on which party controls the White House, compared with Democrats.

The Times survey showed Democrats were less optimistic about the economy and less willing to credit Mr. Trump for it than Republicans were. Confidence among independent voters has fallen to a level between that of Democrats and Republicans, but closer to Democrats’, during Mr. Trump’s term. (Optimism among independents surged in January, but came back to earth in February, according to the Times survey.)

Douglas Prasher, a Democratic voter in Prescott Valley, Ariz., said he didn’t buy claims that the economy was doing well — and he didn’t think Mr. Trump deserved credit if it was. Mr. Prasher, 68, recently retired to Arizona from San Diego, which he said had become unaffordable because of sky-high housing costs. His new home state is cheaper, but he has still had to take on a part-time job to make ends meet. He carries hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from helping his daughters go to college.

“As far as I’m concerned, people are suffering,” Mr. Prasher said. The supposedly strong economy, he said, “seems to only help the wealthy, which we’re not in that category.”

That rhetoric echoes the message of Democratic candidates running for the White House, who frequently claim that the economy is “rigged” or only works for the very rich. Democrats in the Times survey were much more likely to use that phrasing to describe the economy than Mr. Trump’s preferred terms. So were independents, who were six times as likely to call the economy “rigged” or badly broken” as to say it was the “best economy ever.”

Mr. Trump’s aggressive claims — that it is not just strong but “the best ever” — may make him less credible to people not already inclined to support him, said Michele Claibourn, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “It’s easier to resist as information if it feels exaggerated,” she said.

Ms. Claibourn said presidents have historically tried to distinguish between when they were speaking as party leaders and when they were addressing the public in their official, less partisan, capacity. Those lines have blurred over the decades. Under Mr. Trump, the distinction has disappeared almost entirely, she said.

Jim Tankersley reported from Washington, and Ben Casselman from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump’s Economic Cheerleading Is Suddenly Tested

WASHINGTON — One of President Trump’s greatest strengths in his presidential campaign is his economic salesmanship: He has convinced a devoted share of Americans that his leadership has made the U.S. economy bulletproof and that markets would crash if he were defeated in November.

The president’s ability to set the economic narrative is buoyed by an 11-year economic expansion, with rising wages and unemployment at a 50-year low. That strength presents a challenge for the Democrats hoping to unseat him in November — even though Mr. Trump’s cheerleading is often overstated and parts of the economy are slowing, including manufacturing.

That helps explain why Mr. Trump has played down economic damage from the coronavirus and dismissed the stock market plunge: They threaten to undermine the most effective story he tells about his presidency.

“The country is in great shape, the market is in great shape,” Mr. Trump told reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, as stocks tumbled after the Federal Reserve’s rate cut. The S&P 500 ended the day down about 2.8 percent.

Mr. Trump has blamed any growth hiccups on external events, like the Democrats running for president, troubles at the aerospace giant Boeing and the Federal Reserve. He has praised consumers and the economy’s strength, even as forecasters warn that the virus could dampen growth at least temporarily this year.

On Monday, Mr. Trump suggested on Twitter that House Democrats pass a one-year cut in payroll taxes, a form of fiscal stimulus often aimed at boosting consumer spending at times of economic weakness. Yet the president did not concede any economic trouble.

“This is an incredible time for our nation,” he wrote on Twitter. “Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, confidence is surging.”

That kind of rhetoric has served Mr. Trump well during his first three years in office, helping him win credit — at least among supporters — for what remains a strong economy. But experts warn that it has also helped widen a partisan divide on the economy, which may make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to reassure the public in the event of a crisis, like the spread of coronavirus.

“The aura of the office, where people might have deferred to the message about the state of the economy, I think today that’s gone,” said Shanto Iyengar, a political scientist at Stanford University. “It’s gone because of the hyper-partisanship.”

Americans who tune into Mr. Trump’s messages are far more likely to echo his language on the economy and are more optimistic about it, according to a new nationwide poll conducted last month for The New York Times by the online research firm SurveyMonkey.

Respondents were asked to choose from a list of terms that could describe the state of the economy. Those who said they regularly watched or followed news coverage of Mr. Trump’s speeches were about twice as likely to describe the economy as “booming” or the “best economy ever,” and they were far more likely to express confidence in the economy and give Mr. Trump credit for its condition.

The split persisted among Democrats, independents and even among Republicans. More than eight in 10 Republican voters who regularly follow Mr. Trump’s speeches say Mr. Trump deserves “a lot” of credit for the economy. Only about one in three Republicans who do not regularly follow the speeches said the same.

Will Hicks, a 32-year-old survey respondent in the oil field town of Roosevelt, Utah, said Mr. Trump’s election provided an immediate jolt to people in his area. He credits Mr. Trump and his boosterism for much of that, even though he said the president’s claims were often overstated.

“His viewpoint is all positive, that we’re going to get greater, we’re going to improve our economy,” Mr. Hicks said. “I think that push forward, even though it might be a little bit of an exaggeration, has helped the economy.”

Some economists agree. Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale, has described Mr. Trump’s cheerleading as the driving force behind the continuation of the now-record economic expansion over the last three years.

In a presentation earlier this year — in which he compared Mr. Trump’s economic messaging to the spread of a pandemic virus — Mr. Shiller reported than 62 percent of newspaper articles that mentioned a “strong economy” from 2017 to 2019 also mentioned Mr. Trump. That’s more than twice the rate of association that President Bill Clinton enjoyed during a stronger economy in the late 1990s.

Mr. Trump “is our first motivational-speaker president,” Mr. Shiller said.

Mr. Trump made grand economic promises a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign, and he reveled in the stock-market surge that followed his victory. Even before he took office, consumer and small-business confidence levels soared, driven largely by Mr. Trump’s Republican supporters. Both measures have remained elevated throughout his term, with sentiment among Republican consumers hitting a record high in February in a long-running survey from the University of Michigan.

But on several measures, the economy has fallen short of the president’s promises. It grew 2.3 percent last year, well below the forecasts of Mr. Trump’s economic team, as the president’s trade war chilled business investment. Economic growth in the first three years of President Barack Obama’s second term was nearly identical to that of Mr. Trump’s first three years. Median wage growth is no higher today than it was in October 2016, and it remains well below the levels of the late 1990s.

Small business owners’ expectations for capital investment now are essentially unchanged from before the 2016 election. Among consumers, the postelection rise in confidence has failed to translate into a sustained improvement in spending, shattering a longstanding relationship. After Mr. Trump’s election, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, “a gap opened up between the spending and confidence numbers, and that gap has persisted.”

Feeling Good, But Not Acting Like It

President Trump’s election led to a surge in consumer confidence, at least among Republicans. But that hasn’t translated into stronger spending.

Westlake Legal Group 0303-biz-web-TRUMP-NARRATIVE-Artboard_2 Trump’s Economic Cheerleading Is Suddenly Tested Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Labor and Jobs Consumer Behavior

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

CONSUMER SPENDING

University of Michigan

Index of Consumer Sentiment

Year-over-year percentage change in

inflation-adjusted consumer spending

NOV. ’16

NOV. ’16

Trump elected

Trump elected

12-MONTH ROLLING AVERAGE

12-MONTH ROLLING AVERAGE

Westlake Legal Group 0303-biz-web-TRUMP-NARRATIVE-Artboard_3 Trump’s Economic Cheerleading Is Suddenly Tested Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Labor and Jobs Consumer Behavior

Consumer confidence

Consumer spending

University of Michigan

Index of Consumer

Sentiment

Year-over-year percentage

change in inflation-adjusted

consumer spending

NOV. ’16

NOV. ’16

Trump elected

Trump elected

12-month rolling avg.

12-month rolling avg.

Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis (consumer spending); University of Michigan (consumer confidence).

By The New York Times

The confidence gap is driven entirely by asymmetric partisanship, powered by a surge in Republican sentiment. When Mr. Obama was in office, surveys consistently showed that Democrats felt better about the economy than Republicans. When Mr. Trump was elected, the pattern reversed almost overnight, though the surge in Republican optimism was larger than the drop-off among Democrats.

Masha Krupenkin, a Boston College political scientist, said Republicans show bigger swings in economic confidence, and exhibit a similar pattern in surveys that ask about trust in government, depending on which party controls the White House, compared with Democrats.

The Times survey showed Democrats were less optimistic about the economy and less willing to credit Mr. Trump for it than Republicans were. Confidence among independent voters has fallen to a level between that of Democrats and Republicans, but closer to Democrats’, during Mr. Trump’s term. (Optimism among independents surged in January, but came back to earth in February, according to the Times survey.)

Douglas Prasher, a Democratic voter in Prescott Valley, Ariz., said he didn’t buy claims that the economy was doing well — and he didn’t think Mr. Trump deserved credit if it was. Mr. Prasher, 68, recently retired to Arizona from San Diego, which he said had become unaffordable because of sky-high housing costs. His new home state is cheaper, but he has still had to take on a part-time job to make ends meet. He carries hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from helping his daughters go to college.

“As far as I’m concerned, people are suffering,” Mr. Prasher said. The supposedly strong economy, he said, “seems to only help the wealthy, which we’re not in that category.”

That rhetoric echoes the message of Democratic candidates running for the White House, who frequently claim that the economy is “rigged” or only works for the very rich. Democrats in the Times survey were much more likely to use that phrasing to describe the economy than Mr. Trump’s preferred terms. So were independents, who were six times as likely to call the economy “rigged” or badly broken” as to say it was the “best economy ever.”

Mr. Trump’s aggressive claims — that it is not just strong but “the best ever” — may make him less credible to people not already inclined to support him, said Michele Claibourn, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “It’s easier to resist as information if it feels exaggerated,” she said.

Ms. Claibourn said presidents have historically tried to distinguish between when they were speaking as party leaders and when they were addressing the public in their official, less partisan, capacity. Those lines have blurred over the decades. Under Mr. Trump, the distinction has disappeared almost entirely, she said.

Jim Tankersley reported from Washington, and Ben Casselman from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com